CD107 Daron Hagen: Silent Night
Daron Hagen: Silent Night
Familiar carols newly arranged
American Repertory Singers
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Once in Royal David's City
What Child Is This?
At Bethlehem Proper
“Lullay, Lullay” from Silent Night
Scene: Restaurant in Manhattan, at dinner & with a good bottle of wine.
Time: September, 1996.
Characters: Composer (Daron Hagen) and
Record Producer (Robert Schuneman).
Narrative goes something like this:
Producer: Daron, I've got this crazy idea to create a CD full of Christmas choral music sung by the American Repertory Singers, but with accompaniments done in studio as we do with pop music. Mind you, something very creative, but really different from the usual classical seasonal fare. Could you do something like that?
Composer: Cool idea! Sure I can do that. When do you need it?
Producer: I need choral charts by December 1; everything else will need to be in the can by April of next year. Wanna do it?
Composer: Sure! Sounds like fun! Yes, let's do it.
What followed was a long discussion of what might be included.
And so, here is the result-- an extraordinary set of carol arrangements. As in the case with virtually all of Daron's music, he takes the listener on an unusual journey, frequently only alluding to tunes or portions of tunes already more than familiar to the listener. As one would expect of a composer who has devoted so much of his life to vocal music and the relationship between music and text, surprising things occur.
Some songs rely on our long-held memories for the words which are never sung, as in the first part of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, that long fugue vocalized on the old melody made from a medieval chant, a fugue so sustained as to welcome the outburst of the words on "rejoice." Or, as in What Child Is This? in which the insistently compiled clusters urgently ask the question "who?" and get their answer in the short outbursts of "This, this is Christ the King whom shepherds guard and angels sing," but yet finishes with the question "Who?" as if to acknowledge some human doubt.
And then there is God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, the tune of which is alluded to only by the cello, and that only briefly, before it slowly and lyrically melts into the yearning of O Come, O Come Emmanuel again. Bells pealing, reminiscent of the crystal, cold winter's nights in its native Austrian village squares, mark the blurred and distant atmosphere of Silent Night. Using earlier versions of the well-known tune, the women are accompanied by an opulent cello part in Once in Royal David's City, as are the men in the verile At Bethlehem Proper.
All of this begins with the wonder-full lullaby, Lullay, with its polyrhythms. Appropriately, the program ends with a jubilant Hosanna in Excelsis, the words shouted by old and young alike at Christ's entry into Jerusalem shortly before his death, and which the Church has traditionally appropriated for the next to last Sunday before Christmas to herald his entry into the world. How nice a gift for the season so celebrated throughout the world! Enjoy.
-- Robert Schuneman